Monday, December 31, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye...

The year 2007 is almost over. What a GREAT year this has been!

Farmer Chef Jeff was honored by the James Beard Foundation when he cooked a dinner in New York in February, the TV show filmed at Zin Restaurant, Giada's Weekend Getaways, aired in March, I had nasal surgery and we got to go to Italy in April and eat pizza in Naples (wow!!!).

We gave a cooking demo at the Windsor Farmer's Market in May and started enjoying the bounty of our garden while June found us, "Zin Restaurant at Eastside Farm" starting our farm stand at the Thursday night Farmer's Market AND cooking the gala dinner for the Pinot Day's in San Francisco for 150 people (in a make-shift kitchen...OYE!).

In July, at a the taste of Sonoma/Showcase, Farmer Chef Jeff won the "Steel Chef" competition AND we started canning (the first item to be canned was the Santa Rosa Plum Jam (the color of a summer sunset!). August found us entertaining a lot in the back yard and working the farm (never underestimate how much one little plant can produce...or 500!!!) AND Farmer Jeff was in his first movie, Bottle Shock. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, the film is due out in 2008 but WILL be premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

We welcomed September and fall with more catering. We are, after all, in Wine Country, and "Crush" is our busiest time of the year. The restaurant was crazy busy and so were we. Farmer Chef Jeff also won 3 ribbons for his tomatoes AND participated in the world's BIGGEST BLT by donating 125 pounds of house cured bacon. In October we took off for the South and loved it! We ate like little pigs and are now paying the price for those distant taste memories.

November blew past in typical whirlwind fashion with caterings and all of the other things we do every day that keep us busy. December...well...here we are. Another large catering in the middle of the month, a fast trip to San Diego, the holidays in the Central Valley and now home.

Now that I have given a calendar like summary, I feel the need to really focus on the important things. The time I get to spend in the garden with my honey, the moments sleeping in the couch with a cat curled under one arm and a dog sleeping on my legs, knitting with my girlfriends on Saturday mornings, the new internet friends I write to, the connections I am making in the farm and poultry field. Connections.

I am now producing my "sustainable sacks" and am selling them at the Cheese Shop in Healdsburg. The owner, Doralice Handel, has been kind enough to carry them for me. They are made from "hand-me-down" fabric from my late mother and from Jeff's Aunt K. I am so tickled to finally have them in the store. Jeff's mom, Barbara, was kind enough to help me get the first batch of them out the door.

We also got our Gnarly Old Vine Zinfandel Grape Jelly placed at the Cheese Shop AND at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves. It has been really fun for us to see our products sell.

I am grateful for my husband, our family, our friends, our home, our animals. I welcome the new chickens and I bid a very sad goodbye to our newly departed cat, Tommy. Tommy, we loved you even though we never got to snuggle with you. I will miss you terribly. Tell the next lost and hungry kitten to come to our house. There is always space at the food bowl.

I leave you with a photo of my latest addition. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

This holiday season has found us traveling all over the state of CA. I flew to San Diego to be with my whole family (Dec. 16-19), then hopped in the car on Dec. 21 and off we went to Monterey/Carmel for the night. We went to visit with a couple sets of friends, have dinner at Joe Rombi's La Mia Cucina (excellent!), took a whirlwind tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (I had to see the otters!) and then drove over to the central valley town of Newman to see Farmer Jeff's papa, wife and sister-in-law. We were there from Dec. 22 until today and then drove back here to have dinner with Jeff's mama, brother and Aunt K. It has been a fun time and we are so happy now to be back with our babies.

There have been some very special highlights. I would have to say that being able to see all of our family members is at the top of the list. Quite wonderful.

I received some lovely, thoughtful and unexpected gifts. From my dear husband, one of the gifts he gave me was a watch with the Virgin of Guadalupe on the face. I have an unexplainable connection to her and am deeply touched by this gift. We received art work, towels, items for the kitchen and they were all with motifs of chickens, farm animals or just really pretty things.

The unexpected gift was from Bridget, the Great Chicken Mother. She knew that I was disappointed the Modesto Poultry Auction was not held yesterday and seeing that she needed to make room for her incoming white Faverolles, she GAVE me TWO of her beautiful Salmon Faverolles hens. It was so great to hear them talking to us as we drove them home today.
(She is pictured here with her favorite Faverolles Rooster). The new girls, not yet named, are safely protected from the elements and the other chickens. I promise to give an update.

Now for a moment of Gratitude: I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life. God bless each and every one of you. Everyone in our world can teach us something and allow us to practice unconditional love. May I forever keep my heart, mind and soul open to new people, opportunities and experiences.

Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Humbled in the Presence of the Great Chicken Mother


I was taken today to the home of the Great Chicken Mother, Bridget. She is my hero.

Bridget is an acquantance of my in-laws and she also, swoon, raises prize winning show chickens. I am SO in awe of her. She is to my world what the Yarn Harlot is to the knitting world. Sorry, but only the knitters will get that reference.

She and her husband have an almond orchard and on the edge of the orchard sit 4 BIG structures. Big, as in bigger than my brother C's house. Each building has a metal roof, individual "pens" for her various varieties, automatic waterers for each "apartment", nesting boxes in each section, lighting, perches, flat screen tv's...just kidding on that feature, but heavens, it is the chicken resort.

I am truly in awe of her and know that I have so much to learn. Much to the dismay of Farmer Jeff, Bridget told me of the weekly chicken auction that takes place in Modesto on Monday's. That is where I can go to buy very unusual chickens that are just not the best in the breed. I really don't care about getting the very best since I am not showing them, but I sure as heck would like to get some of the varieties she has.
Bridget is in love with Faverolles, shown in the picture above (taken by Kyle Yacobucci, on feathersite.com) but is not limited to just these guys. Farmer Jeff was kind enough to take some pictures of us and I will post them when we get back home.
During this happy yet short meeting, we learned more about chickens and their care. Eastside Farm will be adding some new girls and sprucing up their living/lounging quarters in the spring. I can hardly WAIT!!!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Catering Menu

After barely recovering from the party yesterday I hopped on a plane and flew to San Diego to visit my family. My brother picked me up from the airport and drove me directly to one of the food temples in my world, Point Loma Seafoods. I usually order a crab louie but today I ordered fresh, fresh fish tacos and a side of ceviche while brother C. ordered his usual smoked fish louie and finished my ceviche.

Tonight I was lucky enough to join my father and extended family for a trip to the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier. It was the location of a huge lasagna feed and provided a bird's eye view of the San Diego Parade of Lights. Very sweet...I think I was/am too tired to fully appreciate how special it was.

Okay, now I will tell you what we served yesterday. I am afraid I don't have pictures, so use your imagination!

In the first tent, we "tray passed" wild mushroom and goat cheese tartlets, and house cured/smoked bacon, gruyere and caramelized onion tarts. Tent 2 had an array of Roasted Winter Vegetables with: parsnips, butternut squash, red and golden beets, red potatoes, fennel and rutabagas. We served them with the following 3 sauces: Aioli, Spanish Romesco and a warm Brown Butter and Sage sauce.

Just inside the wine cave we served individual/mini beef wellingtons served with our very own Z 1 sauce. Deeper into the cave, just past where the Gospel singers performed, was where we served the hot smoked duck breast panzanella made with fig and walnut focaccia (Chef Jeff's invention) diced persimmons and a chipotle cranberry chutney.

Upon exiting the tent everyone walked through the kid's tent where we served home-made corn dogs, fresh mac n'cheese and a big fruit salad. We also fed the gospel choir...they got brined and grilled chicken, mac n'cheese, broccoli coleslaw and a cranberry rice salad.

What was left over? Niente, nada, not a thing 'cept some of the sauces. We made over 1200 individual wellingtons, 1300 tartlets, cut up over 200 pounds of vegetables, used cases of fruit, cases of meat, cases of puff pastry...I could go on but I want to sleep tonight about something other than ALL of the food that we prepared. Let me tell you...I am happy we aren't doing another catering event for a couple of weeks!!!

Just a reminder: the greatest gift is the gift of time. I would rather have time with my family or friends than to have them out spending money on "things". (Unless, of course, you ARE my family, in which case, please refer to my amazon wish list...you know who you are!) So before you go out and get yourselves harried, hassled, pressured or crazed, remember to stay sane, folks. Let's keep it all in perspective!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Busy Day!

Today Farmer Chef Jeff and I (and 10 helpers) catered a party for ...drum roll please...1,200 people. Yes, that is 12 with 2 zeros. As I write this, Farmer Jeff is snoring on the couch. He is TOTALLY exhausted. We worked until 11 pm last night, at which point we stopped to eat dinner and go to bed, and then he was so pumped up about the party he couldn't go to sleep until 2:30 am. At 4:30 am he popped up, wide awake, so he went ahead and went to work. We arrived on site at 9:30 and he got back to the restaurant at 5:30pm. He deserves his sleep and whatever else I can do for him.

This is when we need someone to come in and be our nanny. I want someone to draw my bath, warm my flannel jammies in the dryer, fix hot cocoa for me and read to me in bed. Sigh...

I don't have that, but I do have warm and fuzzy kitties (as well as the pups) and they are a great comfort. I came home to discover, for the first time I have ever seen, Ginger and Julian sleeping/snuggling together. I actually believe that Julian tried to hog Gingers spot on her perch and she was able to eek out a tiny space.

The event was held at the winery Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves, located in Dry Creek Valley/Healdsburg and, coincidentally, was featured on the same segment of Giada's Weekend Getaways Wine Country along with Zin Restaurant!

That is the segment in which our Zin "Gnarly Old Vine" Zinfandel Jelly made it's debut. By the way, it is now on sale at Zin Restaurant during business hours, at the Cheese Shop in Healdsburg and at Bella Vineyards! Before you even ask, yes, Farmer Jeff and I, along with his mom and brother helped us to pick the grapes, crush the grapes, press the grapes and then Farmer Chef Jeff and I made the jelly. Okay, Farmer Chef Jeff made most of it, but I was there for all of one day!

I leave you with pictures from the catering event. As you will see we had the most incredible view from our "kitchen" and that part of the event was held in a wine cave. VERY COOL.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

High Art on the Farm

Farmer Jeff and I spent some time this weekend working on the yard. In doing so, we found ourselves creating "Farm Art". What does "Farm Art" look like?

Here is a rough idea: Take T-posts, place them in such a fashion as to create triangular shapes, take everyday materials such as binder clips and greenhouse plastic and then ...wrap trees! Not just any trees, but citrus trees!!! Do you think this is ground breaking work? I wonder if we could qualify for a grant.

The end project looks like this:
Okay...we might not have started off trying to create an homage to Cristo, but we ended up creating some pretty solid protection from frost for our 5 citrus trees! Before we wrapped our Meyer lemon tree, we picked all of the fruit. It is SO pretty.

Tonight was the first night the new kids/pullets/little girls put themselves to bed without any help from us. I am so pleased. It makes life much easier on us. As you can see from the picture, they still love to hang out together. Girls Club!

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Time Heals All Wounds

Today was a rainy day and I let all of the kids hang out in the house. By "all of the kids" I really mean the dogs. The indoor kitties always have free reign in the house. I had laundry to do as well as getting ready to sell our Zinfandel Grape Jelly at the "Windsor Farmer's Market Goes Indoors" opening.

I found both India (dog) and Chloe (cat) sleeping on the clean laundry... on the bed... just inches from one another. I just stopped at the sight of this and had to go and get the camera. I need to explain why this event is so remarkable.

About a year and a half ago India "caught" Chloe in the back yard. At that time Chloe was living as a feral outdoor kitty with her brother, Tiger, and sister, PJ. On the day in question, Jeff and I were in the backyard along with the dogs and Chloe chose that moment to hop into the back yard. I couldn't believe how fast the dogs ran at her and India caught her by her left hind leg and shook her. Chloe was able to get away but not without a severe injury to her left femur/hip.

In my blog on July 31, 2006, I wrote about this "Cain and Abel" clash. I know I am not their birth mother but I sure felt like a mother that day; angry with India and worried about Chloe, yet compassionate to the natural impulse that India's breed carries regarding protection of property.

After a two week period I was able to trap Chloe, have x-rays taken, and then brought her inside to begin her convalescence and taming. With Julian's help (our gray kitty) Chloe became a love bug. She now sleeps in my arms at night and snuggles with me and Jeff on the couch.

Chloe's hip has healed enough for her to be able to jump up onto the bed, onto window sills, and when she is a bad kitty, up on to the kitchen counter. I watched her walking today and saw that she has a barely perceivable limp. She is so sweet, so soft and loves to play.

Whenever I see Chloe sleeping near India, I find it remarkable. India severely injured Chloe and yet Chloe has learned to trust her. I know that I assign to my animals human attributes , but don't you think we can all learn to forgive one another through the tale of Chloe and India?

I know I will take this lesson and hold it close to my heart, along with sweet India and Chloe, my little girls.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Pleased as Punch!

The Ameraucana chickens have been featured quite prominently in my blog lately. I guess we are pretty enamored with them. Not only are they physically beautiful and have quirky personalities, they lay GORGEOUS pale green eggs.

We have been waiting, not very patiently, for the our Ameraucana hens to "come of age", i.e. start laying eggs. Just in the last 3 days have we gotten our precious colored eggs. I am especially pleased, okay, not just pleased but really over the moon, that one of the hens is laying a BLUE egg. They are the two smaller ones on the left and possibly the one on the upper right. I will admit, it is a VERY close call and hard to definitively say they are blue rather than green. In any case, we are TICKLED that the girls have started laying. If ONLY Duke HAD been Duchess and Sophocles had REALLY been Sophia, we would be showing off more green eggs. Such is life, yes?

On a completely different subject, Farmer Chef Jeff and I, along with a talented staff, successfully pulled off a Hawaiian-themed Christmas party Friday night, complete with saxophone accompaniment. That part was a bit surreal. Anyway, the party was a wild success. The only thing left over from the party were these beautiful flowers. Farmer Chef Jeff and I will be taking it easy today and tomorrow, only doing simple things like raking all of the leaves off the roof and cleaning the rain gutters!

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So Long, Boys!


We finally did it. We finally captured the hens-turned-roosters and took them down to J.P. at Western Farm Center. As you might remember, Farmer Jeff bought me 5 little female Ameraucana chicks for Mother's Day and, lo and behold, 2 of the 5 turned out to be ROOSTERS!!! Not just any roosters, but loud and clumsy-lover roosters!!! These guys were the bad boys of the pen, jumping on, or at least chasing, all of the hens. Poor Jericho and Bruce were out-gunned/out-muscled by these two characters.

I announced to Farmer Jeff, as we were getting ready to go to Western Farm today for feed, that it was time for these guys to go. NOW. Farmer Jeff thought it might be fun to capture THEIR capture on film/photo. You can see that it was not an easy proposition!

The first one, Duke (the-hen-formerly-known-as-Duchess) was easy to get. He was in the coop and I just walked in and grabbed him as he was attempting some sweet talk with one of the girls. He was not a problem. The next one was.









Sophocles (the-hen-formerly-known-as-Sophia) was another story. I strolled up to him in the pen and thought I would just pick him up. NO...not going to happen. I ran around that damn coop, flapping my arms like giant wings, making every attempt to grab him. First I tried cornering him, then I tried...cornering him and then tried...cornering him again, only to have him fly over my head! Farmer Jeff was laughing so hard he could barely take pictures!

I finally corralled him into the coop and was able to grab him by his ankles. At that point, like all bad guys in bad fiction, he went limp, became compliant and stopped struggling. He really didn't have much choice! As you can see, he is a real beauty. I thanked him for being with us, told him he would go to a home where they really wanted him. I hope that is the case. When we got down to Western Farm, we saw many other roosters up for sale. He was the most handsome boy down there, as well as his brother. This breed is just regal. They can't help it.When we got back home, I was able to sweet talk Farmer Jeff into putting up a board over the coop window. It just has a screen and flimsy curtains, which is just not enough protection for our cold nights. Last night it got down to 25 degrees!!! That is DAMN cold for us little hot house flowers in California. Actually, I am the hot-house flower having grown up in San Diego, but I am adjusting to stronger seasons and freezing temperatures. The gray hen is Eleanor Roosevelt and the white one is Martha Washington. They are both Ameraucanas.

I leave you with a picture of Sophocles. Goodbye, fair Prince!

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